When You Have a Career in the Food Industry and an Eating Disorder
“So many of us professional food people struggle with eating and body issues. We’re drawn in.”
If you eat this cheese, you cannot eat dinner. If you eat this cheese and dinner, you pig, you cannot eat anything tomorrow.
It tastes too good, obscenely good. My body vibrates with wanting. Another sliver. And another. Soon the whole wheel is gone, and then the next one, leaving only a gloppy smudge on the cutting board and a sinking feeling in my stomach: dairy and shame.
eating disorder not otherwise specified
Much like alcoholics cannot stop drinking after they start, food addicts experience uncontrollable cravings after they partake in certain foods (sugar and flour seem to be common culprits) or food behaviors (for me: sneaking food and lying about food).
Ophir graduated from culinary school, cooked on the line in a Michelin-starred restaurant, taught aspiring chefs, and led food tours. Now she works as a private chef and food stylist. Her eating struggles flourished in tandem with her career. “It’s such a crazy, unconventional life,” Ophir explains. “Being reckless is part of the energy of chefs. It could mean leaving cooking school, seeing some dessert that the pastry class made, and without a second thought eating a whole Tarte Tatin at 11:30 on a Tuesday night. This was not frowned upon. It felt natural and gratifying.”
Understanding this is not a cure, but it is a start for food people and all people.
I’m with Ophir: “It’s a constant struggle—but that doesn’t mean that I’m miserable. It’s a challenge that I’m open to. I love my work and I love food—and I love finding a way to make it all work.” These days, I teach cheese classes and tastings. I love stinky cheese, and crumbly cheese, and all wonderful cheese. I know more than I used to, but I still have plenty to learn. Sometimes I still eat too much, or not enough, but I try my best to cultivate self-compassion and kindness. I haven’t binged in nearly six years. Every single day, I am grateful.
Hannah Howard spent her formative years eating, drinking, serving, bartending, cooking on a hot line, flipping giant wheels of cheese, and managing restaurants. She is the author of the Amazon bestselling memoir Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen. Hannah is a graduate of Columbia University and the Bennington Writing Seminars. She writes for SELF, New York Magazine, and Salon.com, and lives in New York City.